AROUND 1,200 BCE
The Iron Age was a period in human history that allowed for advancements in the creation of tools, weaponry and architecture. The downside to iron was that in comparison to bronze, it was not as hard or durable. The metal was also known to corrode a lot more easily; hence, finding ancient artefacts is often much rarer than finding objects made of gold and silver. This made iron an inferior metal initially, but iron quickly became more popular with the invention of steel. Created by heating iron with carbon, steel is a much harder metal than pure iron. Historians believe that the Hittites – an Anatolian people largely responsible for establishing the Empire of Hattusa around 1600 BCE – were the first people to make steel.
During the Iron Age, people across much of Europe, Asia and parts of Africa began making tools, weapons, nails, cooking pots and personal ornaments from iron and steel. Iron enhanced quality of life during ancient times as it made important tasks like farming easier as thetools used were more durable. The most common artefacts that can be found at historical sites – which have not corroded away – are nails. The identification of these nails have allowed archaeologists to tell how old a building was.
Today, iron and steel is essential for the construction of everything from roads and railways to skyscrapers; indeed any form of building requires a steel skeleton. The discovery of iron and steel resulted in rapid growth for many civilisations, paving the way for countless technological advancements – long after the Iron Age ended.